Baidu and SB Drive, a subsidiary of Softbank dedicated to self-driving technology research, and King Long, have announced a strategic partnership to jointly develop and deploy a version of the Apolong self-driving mini bus for the Japanese market.
Apolong is a fully autonomous mini bus co-developed by Baidu and King Long. The mini bus is powered by the Apollo open source autonomous driving technologies created by Baidu and is China’s first fully self-driving electric bus to enter the volume production phase. Under the agreement, ten Apolong mini buses will be exported to Japan from China in early 2019.
Baidu’s Global Business Unit works with local partners to deploy Baidu’s AI technologies and products overseas, especially key projects like the Apollo open autonomous driving technology and the DuerOS conversational AI platform.
The Apollo open autonomous driving platform launched last year is one of the world’s largest and most diverse autonomous driving ecosystems. As a member of Apollo, King Long has been working with Baidu since October 2017 to develop the Apolong buses. The first fleet are to be deployed in geo-fenced places like parks, industrial campuses and airports in five Chinese cities.
SB Drive, a subsidiary under SoftBank dedicated to autonomous vehicles research and development, has also been conducting autonomous bus testing in Okinawa as part of the “Autonomous Driving System” program designated by the Cabinet Office of Japan.